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Theatre of the Absurd

Created by Lea Marshall

WARNING: This unit is ABSURD. However, instructor Lea Marshall decided to do something really ABSURD with the unit, which was make it a bit more predictable. First, the unit takes two lessons to go over the Historical and Philosophical background of Theatre of the Absurd. It starts with just a visual exercise to really bring students into the emotional bleakness of the landscape and then group work to look at some of the other foundational elements that will drive the Absurdist movement into the Theatres.

Next, students break down absurd scripts into some “recognizable” elements of language, plot structure, acting choices, and storyline. With each lesson that introduces an Absurdist Element, there is an opportunity for students to “play” with the element. Then, students explore the element through an Absurdist text. This will help familiarize the students with the 4 Absurdist scripts used in the unit. These bite sized forays into the scripts will help students to choose a script to fully immerse themselves in for the final project.

As a final project, students will choose one script to work with, and choose the format of their project (performance, costume or set design, or playwright).

Overview
The overview sets up the objectives for the unit and outlines each lesson and describes the final project.
1: Visual Absurdity
To visually introduce the existential angst of World War II’s aftermath; to provide a historical setting for Theatre of the Absurd; as students, write a reflection monologue.
2: Out of Tune
Students will explore the historical and philosophical background for the ABSURDIST style of theatre.
3: Cliches, Stereotypes, and Overused Phrases
To compare modern-day clichés and stereotyped phrases to those used in Theatre of the Absurd Plays to convey that style’s message of language’s meaninglessness.
4: Cliches, Stereotypes, and Overused Phrases in Waiting for Godot
Students will explore the Absurdism theatrical convention of using cliches, stereotypes, or overused repeated phrases to communicate (or not communicate) a larger theme of interpersonal relationships and misunderstandings in the text of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.
5: Meaningless Language
Students will explore the Absurdism theatrical convention of using meaningless language to communicate (or not communicate) a larger theme of interpersonal relationships and misunderstandings.
6: Meaningless Language in The Bald Soprano
Students will explore the Absurdism theatrical convention of using meaningless language to communicate (or not communicate) a larger theme of interpersonal relationships and misunderstandings through the text of Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano.
7: Circular Plot Lines
Students will explore the Absurdism theatrical convention of circular plot lines that appear to go nowhere and end in unresolved situations.
8: Circular Plot Lines in The Arsonist
Students will explore the Absurdism theatrical convention of circular plot lines that appear to go nowhere and end in unresolved situations by using the text from Max Frisch’s The Arsonists.
9: The Pause
Students will examine the effect of pauses in a scene and demonstrate the Absurdist dialogue convention of strange and ill-timed pauses.
10: The Pause from Waiting for Godot
Students will examine the effect of pauses in a monologue from Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and demonstrate the Absurdist dialogue convention of strange and ill-timed pauses.
11: Impossible Things are Happening Every Day
Students will explore the Absurdist plot convention of impossible things seen as normal or unremarkable.
12: Impossibilities in Ionesco's Rhinoceros
Students will explore the Absurdist element of impossible things seen as normal or unremarkable in Ionesco’s play Rhinoceros.
13: Final Project: The Play's the Thing...
Students will explore elements of Absurdism in their chosen Absurd play.

Standards Addressed

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